The Rev. Ted Haggard emerged from three weeks of intensive counseling convinced he is “completely heterosexual” and told an oversight board that his sexual contact with men was limited to his accuser.
That is according to one of the disgraced pastor’s overseers, who on Monday revealed new details about where Haggard has been and where he is headed.
The Rev. Tim Ralph of Larkspur also said the four-man oversight board strongly urged Haggard to go into secular work instead of Christian ministry if Haggard and his wife follow through on plans to earn master’s degrees in psychology.
Haggard broke a three-month silence in e-mails over the weekend to select members of his former church. New Life Church interim senior pastor Ross Parsley forwarded Haggard’s message to the wider church body Monday.
In the message, Haggard revealed that he and his wife, Gayle, intend to leave Colorado Springs and pursue master’s degrees through online courses.
Haggard mentioned Missouri and Iowa as possible destinations. Another oversight board member, the Rev. Mike Ware of Westminster, said the group recommended the move out of town, and the Haggards agreed.
“This is a good place for Ted,” Ware said. “It’s hard to heal in Colorado Springs right now. It’s like an open wound. He needs to get somewhere he can get the wound healed.”
Haggard, 50, resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals and was fired from the church he built from nothing into a 14,000-member congregation after a former male prostitute in Denver alleged a three-year cash-for-sex relationship.
Haggard admitted to “sexual immorality” and a long battle against feelings contrary to his beliefs. He admitted buying methamphetamine but said he never used it. Haggard did not respond to interview requests.
Among other things, the overseers urged Haggard to enter a 12-step program for sexual addiction, Ware said.
Ralph said three weeks of counseling at an undisclosed Arizona treatment center helped Haggard immensely and left Haggard sure of one thing.
“He is completely heterosexual,” Ralph said. “That is something he discovered. It was the acting-out situations where things took place. It wasn’t a constant thing.”
Why Haggard chose to act out in that manner is something Haggard and his advisers are trying to discern, Ralph said.
In investigating Haggard’s assertion that his extramarital sexual contact was limited to former male escort Mike Jones, the board talked to people close to Haggard and found no evidence contradicting him, Ralph said.
“If we’re going to be proved wrong, somebody else is going to come forward, and that usually happens really quickly,” he said. “We’re into this thing over 90 days, and it hasn’t happened.”
Steering Haggard away from a return to ministry was based, in part, on Haggard’s high profile, Ralph said. He cited biblical passages about holding influential figures to a higher standard.
“Nobody is saying he can’t go back into ministry,” Ralph said. “Somewhere down the road, that could very well happen, and that would be wonderful.”
Haggard is being asked to join a church wherever the couple moves and continue the Christian counseling he receives twice a week, Ralph said.
The oversight board that includes Ralph is focusing on New Life Church’s future but continues to counsel Haggard.
What has been termed Haggard’s “restoration” is being overseen by another panel: H.B. London, who runs a Focus on the Family ministry to pastors, and megachurch pastors Tommy Barnett and Jack Hayford.
London said he was not surprised Haggard was considering the psychological field.
“Many of us that go into the healing, helping professions do so out of some sort of dysfunction or traumatic event in our lives, and we want to do what we can to help other people avoid what we’ve gone through,” he said. “He is certainly gifted and intelligent and has an intuitive side to him. And he has life experience. Those are good credentials.”